Business, marketing leaders educate RU students in Ireland
When a fifth-generation sheep farmer in Galway, Ireland needed help promoting his farm as a tourist attraction, he turned to a group of Radford University students who were participating in a College of Business and Economics (COBE) study abroad program.
Tom Bunowen decided a few years ago to open his farm to the public, but found it challenging to operate the farm and promote it as a business.
"He wanted some ideas for marketing because he's not going to be able to survive just herding sheep," said James Lollar, chair of Radford University’s Department of Marketing.
In May, Lollar and marketing professor Andrea Stanaland led a group of 22 RU students on a three-week study-abroad excursion to Ireland to gain a cross-cultural perspective on marketing with an emphasis on global branding, service marketing and sustainability.
Part of their learning experience was to visit and tour the Bunowen’s farm and provide him with a few pointers about how to promote his business on social media. "Our students committed to making that business a name on social media," Lollar said. "The students loved this opportunity to apply their knowledge, and they loved the learning experience at the sheep farm."
Hannah Ruark, a senior marketing major from Newport, said visiting the sheep farm and "digging in the bog" was one of the most memorable experiences she had in Ireland, and she was delighted to help give the farmer "pointers on advertising" and help him promote his business on social media websites.
The trip to the sheep farm was one day out of two weeks the group spent in Galway. On weekdays, students attended morning classes at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG). The remainder of the mornings and afternoons were spent interacting with business leaders, such as a former dancer with the Irish step dancing company Riverdance, the CEO and founder of Kinvara Smoked Salmon, the CEO of Dubarry footwear and touring several manufacturing facilities.
"We exposed the students to several Irish professors with various areas of expertise, which was also a great learning experience," Lollar explained.
The final week was spent in Dublin, where students visited renown institutions and brands such as Trinity College and Guinness.
The learning experience wasn't confined to the universities in which the students studied. Lollar, Stanaland and the group ventured out for learning expeditions in such diametric places as St. Patrick's Cathedral and Brazen Head Pub, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland that opened in the late 1100s.
"We talked about how the pub had sustained the brand and the business," Lollar said of Brazen Head. "It's a tiny pub, but people pack the place. By going there, we had great conversations about what makes people want to visit such an establishment. Everything we did was connected back to the academic perspective."
As part of the experience, students were required to keep a daily journal to document the events of the day and reflect upon what they learned. Also, in class sessions prior to departing for Ireland, students worked in groups to research and complete case studies focused on Irish tourism and the Guinness brand. "We wanted them to delve into the Irish business culture so they would be better prepared for our academic study in the country," Lollar explained.
At the end of their stays in Galway and Dublin, the professors and students were treated to festive banquets in castles with traditional Irish food, music and dancing.
When back in the United States, the students were required to write a reflective paper based on what they learned, and a research paper focused on a variety of Irish cross-cultural business topics.
The study abroad trip to Ireland was the second for COBE. The trip was led by marketing professors and the plan is to make the trek every other year, Lollar noted. The departments of marketing and management also offer a yearly study trip to Australia.
To be a part of the trip – it's open to all majors – students must go through a rigorous selection process. More than 150 students expressed interest in studying in Ireland. Lollar said 40 of those were selected for interviews before the final 22 where chosen. From there, the students began preparing for the trip in February with a class that met every two weeks.
"Our study abroad programs offer students a unique and memorable opportunity to get to know each other and to learn about the effect of different cultures on global business decisions," Lollar noted. "It also helps inform and shape student expectations when they return to campus and again as career professionals."
Radford University is a comprehensive public university of more than 9,900 students. RU serves the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation through a wide range of academic, cultural, human service, and research programs. Well known for its strong faculty/student bonds, innovative use of technology in the learning environment and vibrant student life on a beautiful 191-acre American classical campus, Radford University offers students many opportunities to get involved and succeed in and out of the classroom. The university offers 69 degree programs at the undergraduate level, and 21 master's programs and three doctoral programs at the graduate level. A Division I member of the NCAA and Big South Athletic Conference, Radford participates in 19 varsity sports—11 for women and eight for men. Since 2005, the university has secured approval and funding for nearly $300 million in capital projects, including both new construction and renovation.
Learn more about Radford University at www.radford.edu.